Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Arts-Heavy Preschool Helps Children Grow Emotionally

• September 10, 2012 • 9:43 AM

New research finds low-income kids in an arts-enhanced preschool program have a more positive attitude than their peers, and are better able to manage negative emotions.

How do children learn how to learn? One essential skill is mastering their emotions – learning how to stay positive as much as possible, and how to deal with those inevitable interludes of sadness, anger or fear.

Newly published research suggests low-income kids are more likely to develop these all-important abilities if they attend a unique preschool program that integrates education and the arts.

The arts-rich curriculum produced more “positive emotions such as interest, happiness and pride, and greater growth in emotion regulation across the school year,” reports West Chester University psychologist Eleanor D. Brown.

These results are particularly significant, she adds, given “the critical importance of children’s social-emotional readiness to learn.”

The study provides more evidence of the success of Settlement Music School’s Kaleidoscope Preschool Arts Enrichment Program. In 2009, a research team led by Brown reported participants in the program, located in a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood, raised their vocabulary scores at three times the rate of peers enrolled at a nearby preschool with a traditional curriculum.

The new report, published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly, points to one likely catalyst for such academic success. It suggests children in the arts-heavy preschool program were better adjusted emotionally.

Brown and her colleague, Kacey Sax, compared 174 students in the Settlement Music School preschool with 31 who attended another Head Start-certified preschool nearby. Ninety percent were from low-income families; 75 percent were African-Americans.

The Settlement program features daily music, visual arts and “creative movement” classes, taught by credentialed instructors, as well as standard early-learning classes.

Trained research assistants observed all the children at regular intervals to determine their emotional states. In addition, in the fall and again in the spring, their teachers assessed the kids’ ability to regulate their emotions. Specifically, they reported whether a child was easily frustrated, exhibited wide mood swings, and how he or she showed empathy or concern for others.

The two groups of kids exhibited roughly the same level of negative emotions. But those in the arts-enriched group “showed more interest, happiness and pride” than their counterparts. Furthermore, teacher reports indicate the arts-group members showed greater improvement in the all-important ability to understand and manage uncomfortable feelings.

“Experiences with the arts elicit a range of emotions,” Brown and Sax note, “and may help children to understand connections between events as feelings, as well as practice appropriate strategies to regulate their emotions.”

So once again, arts education is shown to be far from a frill. Rather, this study suggests it is a valuable way to help disadvantaged children develop the emotional maturity needed for success in school—and in life.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.


November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.


November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”


November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.


November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America


November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.


November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.


November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.


November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.



November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”


November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.


November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


Follow us


Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.